The most important resource for completing a task, project, or goal is time.
If it’s something you’re actively working on, you can schedule it for today, this week, or later this year. A task that is deferred to later will, eventually, surface again and become a task for today.
We have a finite capacity for work—just 168 hours in a week. We try to fit more in by sacrificing sleep, but that’s not sustainable. We can optimize by applying the 80/20 rule, but that has its limits.
Eventually, we have more ideas—great ideas—than we have time to execute.
If we let them build up on our task list, our task list is just going to become an unworkable mess. What we need to do gets buried under what we want to do. Pretty soon, we don’t know what to work on next. Or right now.
And we feel guilt because our To Do list grows faster than our Done list.
What we need is a parking list. Someplace we can capture ideas and leave them as ideas. Someplace where we know the idea is safe and we’re not going to forget about it. Someplace where we can, one day, review the ideas our Past Self had and schedule time to work on it—if our Future Self agrees that it’s a good idea.
This is the idea behind the Someday/Maybe list popularized by David Allen in Getting Things Done.
Your Someday/Maybe list is full of ideas. They’re not tasks, projects, or goals—not yet. They’re just ideas. They’re not a backlog of things you haven’t gotten to yet.
These ideas can be at any level of planning. They can be bucket list experiences or nagging projects. Visit Fiji. Read War and Peace. Learn how to smoke ribs.
Don’t worry about editing. “Is this a good idea? A bad idea? Am I going to roll my eyes that I ever wanted to do it?” It doesn’t matter. If you’re not going to do it now, don’t make your brain think about it any more than it has to. Capture the idea and get back to thinking about what you need to do today. Let your Future Self judge the idea on its merits.
All you’re doing now is acknowledging that you have limits. You can’t do everything at once. Some things need to be done later.
Store your Someday/Maybe list separately from your task list. It’s tempting (and may even seem like a good idea) to store all your tasks and projects in one place, whether you’re going to work on them today, this week, or later this year. Don’t. Until you decide to do them, and when, those ideas are just clutter. Let your task list be for active projects only.
Review your Someday/Maybe list during your quarterly review. Just give it a quick once-over to see if there’s anything you want to pick up that quarter.
If you find anything that makes you roll your eyes that you ever wanted to do that, that’s fine. That means the Someday/Maybe list worked. You could have wasted precious time on that bad idea. Just smile, scratch it off, and move on to the next great idea your Past Self had.